MattAndJojang's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Economics

Happiness For Sale: $75,000

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In a time when happiness is being measured through Facebook and Twitter, it’s inevitable that we will see more and more scientific reports to help us find happiness. This one from the Gallup Organization finds:

“Emotional well-being (measured by questions about emotional experiences yesterday) and life evaluation (measured by Cantril’s Self-Anchoring Scale) have different correlates. Income and education are more closely related to life evaluation, but health, care giving, loneliness, and smoking are relatively stronger predictors of daily emotions. When plotted against log income, life evaluation rises steadily. Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of $75,000. Low income exacerbates the emotional pain associated with such misfortunes as divorce, ill health, and being alone. We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.”

This idea of happiness costing $75,000 reminded me of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s book Development As Freedom. Perhaps in the United States, $75,000 is the amount people need to have the freedom to choose how to live their lives without worrying about their basic needs. Of course, Sen also says that while happiness is an important factor in assessing well-being, it can’t work as a sole measure for very practical reasons. Sen tells David Aaronovitch in an interview for The Sunday Times:

“If you’re asked how happy are you, the answer is exactly informative as to what you would say if somebody asked you how happy you are. It doesn’t tell anyone whether you’re really happy or not. People can get very discontented when they’re very successful. And the sad thing is that people actually do adjust if they’re very deprived. I spent 15 years working on famine and it’s amazing how happy famine victims are when they ultimately get a meal. But that doesn’t mean people are generally more deprived than a famine victim having a first meal.”

The elusive definition of happiness is echoed by Buddhist Matthieu Ricard in our show “The Happiest Man in the World.” In the audio clip above he reiterates the importance of making that difficult distinction between happiness and pleasure. Should, or can, happiness be surveyed?


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September 19, 2010 at 11:09 am

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Joseph Lowery’s Benediction For Barack Obama’s Inauguration

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The Lincoln Inaugural Bible

The Lincoln Inaugural Bible

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand – true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed – the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

Written by MattAndJojang

January 24, 2009 at 8:12 am

Questions Evoked By The Economic Slowdown

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The thing that interests me about this are the questions that are coming up in the minds of people. People haven’t thought about these things quite in this way, and the questions are very interesting questions. You have questions like this:  What can be trusted? What will sustain me? What do I really need in order to live? These are questions that you ask yourself almost on a daily basis these days because of the economy, but what’s so interesting to me is these are profoundly spiritual questions. These are the questions one asks to one’s self just before you initiate a spiritual search.

Rachel Naomi Remen

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January 7, 2009 at 10:19 am

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What About Gross National Happiness?

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BhutanWhen Jigme Singye Wangchuck was crowned king of the Himalayan nation of Bhutan in 1972, he declared he was more concerned with Gross National Happiness than with Gross Domestic Product. This probably didn’t come as a surprise to the forest-laden country’s 810,000 to 2.2 million (estimates vary greatly) residents, most of whom are poor subsistence farmers. Bhutan s GDP is a mere $2.7 billion, but Wangchuck still maintains that economic growth does not necessarily lead to contentment, and instead focuses on the four pillars of GNH: economic self-reliance, a pristine environment, the preservation and promotion of Bhutan’s culture, and good governance in the form of a democracy.

King Wangchuck’s idea that public policy should be more closely tied to wellbeing – how people feel about their lives – is catching on. There is a growing interest in some policymaking circles in looking at these measures, says Richard Easterlin, economics professor at the University of Southern California. We have been misguided in dismissing what people say about how happy they are and simply assuming that if they are consuming more apples and buying more cars they are better off. There are efforts to devise a new economic index that would measure wellbeing gauged by things like satisfaction with personal relationships, employment, and meaning and purpose in life, as well as, for example, the extent new drugs and technology improve standards of living.

The independent London-based think tank New Economics Foundation is pushing the implementation of a set of national wellbeing accounts that would tote up life satisfaction and personal development as well as issues such as trust and engagement. The accounts would also include liabilities, such as stress and depression. The logistics won’t be hard, says Hetan Shah of NEF, because much of the data is already captured by the government. In 2002, the Strategy Unit, an internal government think tank that reports to Prime Minister Tony Blair, conducted a seminar on life satisfaction and its public policy implications. Shah says Germany, Italy and France are also looking into the issue, one he predicts will become increasingly important as people continue to seek the good life.

Nadia Mustafa

This article was originally posted in

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December 31, 2008 at 8:52 am

On The Recent Economic Downturn

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Economic Crisis

At some level most of us knew they were coming. Who doesn’t know that a society in which the rich get richer while the poor get poorer is a society that will some day have to pay the piper? Who doesn’t know that an economic system that encourages us to live beyond our means and refuses to regulate greed is one in which our avarice will come back to bite us? Who doesn’t know that at every level of life, from personal to global to cosmic, what goes around comes around? The problem is not that we don’t possess a capacity to know these things. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have all the colloquialisms I just used. The problem is that the knowledge we need, like the seismic shifts that create eruptions, originates underground. It comes from a place within us deeper than our intellects.

Parker Palmer

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December 22, 2008 at 7:25 pm

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The Human Cost Of Capitalist Progress

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Boat On The Lake

The poor man’s son, whom heaven in its anger has visited with ambition, admires the condition of the rich. It appears in his fancy like the life of some superior rank of beings, and, in order to arrive at it, he devotes himself forever to the pursuit of wealth and greatness. Through the whole of his life, he pursues the idea of a certain artificial and elegant repose, which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a real tranquility that is at all times in his power, and which, if in the extremity of old age, he should at last attain to it, he will find to be in no respect preferable to that humble security and contentment which he had abandoned for it. Power and riches appear, then, to be what they are, enormous machines contrived to produce a few trifling conveniences to the body. They are immense fabrics, which it requires the labor of a life to raise, which threaten every moment to overwhelm the person that dwells in them, and which, while they stand, can protect him from none of the severer inclemencies of the season. They keep off the summer shower, not the winter storm, but leave him always as much and sometimes more exposed than before to anxiety, to fear and to sorrow, to diseases, to danger and to death.

Adam Smith

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November 21, 2008 at 10:51 am

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